SONJA KRISTINA

From Hair to eter­nity: a dou­ble CD over­view for Curved Air’s front­woman.

Prog - - Limelight - MB

While Sonja Kristina is best known for her time in Curved Air – not least as one of a hand­ful of pioneering fe­male artists in the 1970s pro­gres­sive rock scene – her solo ca­reer has yielded some ex­cep­tional mu­sic. It’s the prod­uct of a colour­ful life, which found her singing as a 13-year-old in lo­cal folk clubs of Es­sex, then in mu­si­cals, in­clud­ing a teenage turn in Hair. Con­cur­rently, she spent time as a hip­pie boho hang­ing out with

The Pink Fairies and The De­viants and later, as Curved Air un­der­went a break-up and re­nais­sance, a spell as a bunny girl croupier at the Play­boy Club. She en­joyed both punk and the neo-psy­che­delic Club Dog scene of the 1990s, when she was at the van­guard of the acid folk re­vival.

The story starts in the present with a nod to the be­gin­ning and a 2017 read­ing of Frank Mills from Hair.

The other con­tem­po­rary record­ing is a poignant cover, with acous­tic gui­tar, ac­cor­dion and harp­si­chord, of Greg Lake’s C’est La Vie prompted by an ap­pear­ance at a re­cent trib­ute con­cert. There’s also a melan­cholic acous­tic re­cast­ing of Motör­head’s I Don’t Be­lieve A Word and a lav­ishly ar­ranged ver­sion of Carl Orff’s O For­tuna with Air com­padre Darryl Way.

But Kristina’s orig­i­nal full band ma­te­rial re­ally stands out. It’s eclec­tic in its ar­range­ments, but car­ries a strong melodic sig­na­ture and an in­ci­sive style of lyric writ­ing. Baby Song be­gins as a mother’s paean to her off­spring be­fore ac­knowl­edg­ing their in­evitable dis­il­lu­sion­ment with life, then veer­ing of into an ex­ul­tant in­stru­men­tal dance with hints of African high­life.

A lot of the ma­te­rial has a folk­ish tinge with Paul Sax’s out­stand­ing vi­olin play­ing fea­tur­ing on a num­ber of selections, and merg­ing with the gleam­ing synths and mul­ti­ple vo­cal har­monies on the sin­u­ous An­gel. Kristina drolly em­braces the dark side on the fid­dle-fu­elled hellish hoe­down of Devil May Care, then dis­penses some pithy ad­vice to the song’s way­ward pro­tag­o­nist on Anna.

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